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U.S. military assists France in African missions --The Pentagon would not offer details on the nature of support to French troops in Mali or Somalia. 14 Jan 2013 U.S. military warplanes assisted French forces battling 'Islamic extremists' in two African countries over the weekend, according to the Pentagon, highlighting the growing threat of 'al Qaeda'-linked terrorists in the region. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered few details on the nature of support to French troops in Mali or Somalia. But the U.S. military has the ability unparalleled in the world to provide aerial refueling and spy planes.